When are you coming home?
It seems like every time I write about what we're doing--and where we're doing it--someone says it:
"That sounds great/fun/exciting/relaxing/adventurous/cool.
So, when are you coming home?"
Our North Carolina grandsons, five-year-old Cyrus and three-year-old John, put the same question in their own way, using the term they came up with for our home in Galva after a Christmastime visit that was indelibly marked in their southern-child memories by mounds and piles of snowflakes, snowballs and other wintertime fun.
"When are you going back to the snowy house?"
The answer is both simple and a little complicated, I guess.
Here it is:
Sooner. Later. Always.
We're lucky that way.
Young John, put it best when he turned to his grandmother one day and asked,
"Why do you and grandpa have two houses, the snowy house and the beach house?"
"Because we're lucky ducks," said grandma. "We get to be at the snowy house with our friends there, and we get to be here with you, too."
John took some time to digest this piece of information, then replied with an answer that will ensure him a place in our hearts and probably just about anything else he ever wants or needs.
"No," he said. "I'm the lucky duck."
I really do think that home is where the heart is, as the old saying goes. Yes, because it's a nice, poetic thing to say. And because it's true, too.
But home, for me at least, is not limited to a snowy house in Galva and a beachfront bungalow on the Carolina coast.
I am drawn, too, by the shores of Lake Superior, where we spent our first winter together in a log cabin so cold and drafty that even the mice couldn't take it. My heart will take me to the lakes and plains of northern Minnesota, where our other children and grandchildren live and love and generously share their lives with us. Home, for us, can be found in a little tent on the piney edge of a Wisconsin lake, apple picking in an upstate New York orchard and even on the vast southwest plains of Texas. Because our hearts reside in those places, too, along with an entire country filled with places we've never been and others that we've seen and want to see again some day.
But as much as we enjoy the chance to go and see the people and places we love, it's hard sometimes, too.
Because there's no doubt that we miss all the places where we're not.
And the faces, too.
We're heading back to Illinois soon, a prospect that pleases us, as we've missed our friends, our house and even the cat named Max. We were enjoying a bit of breakfast and birdwatching with John and Cyrus on the deck overlooking the marshy inlet we call our backyard the other day, when I saw my wife's face suddenly sadden.
"What?" I said, though I knew what was on her mind.
"I'm missing them already," she quivered.
But I also know we'll be thrilled to get back to Galva; to greet friends, catch up on everything we've missed and plunge back into the life and chores and activities we left behind behind for awhile. We'll make our way to visit the Minnesota crew. And we'll plan and think and dream about the next time we hit the road.
Because before you know it, we'll be back this way again.
For now, we will continue to call both places home. We will continue to let home be wherever it seems best to be.
We will follow our hearts.
Because we are, after all, lucky ducks.